01/07/13 — Community health survey results set to be released

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Community health survey results set to be released

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 7, 2013 1:46 PM

Results of the yearlong effort to determine the county's health status, and to improve upon it, will be released at a public meeting next week.

The Community Health Needs Assessment will be presented Monday, Jan. 14, from 5:30 until 6:30 p.m. in Moffatt Auditorium at Wayne Community College.

And while the bulk of the session will be a discussion of the data compiled through online questionnaires, surveys and focus groups, public input is still needed.

"This is really your chance to come and be heard in the community," said Becky Craig, vice president of finance and chief financial officer at Wayne Memorial Hospital. "We're looking for people to step up and be there."

The hospital and Wayne County Health Department spearheaded meetings that incorporated representatives from agencies around the county, which began in January 2012 to develop a snapshot of the county.

At the outset, Carolyn King, health education supervisor with the health department, likened the process to putting a magnifying glass over the community.

The idea of such an assessment is not new to the health department, which has periodically done them since the early 1980s, she said.

Next week's presentation will cover information gathered and prepared by the Center for Survey Research at East Carolina University. Organizers said the results will be used to target areas that can be improved upon for the county's residents.

"This was a collaborative effort with the hospital, the health department and the university, that we came together and collected data from 43 stakeholders -- business, health, education and municipalities, faith-based, philanthropic groups," said Dr. Kim Larson, member of the board of health and also an associate professor at ECU.

She said the 10 focus groups were held in geographically strategic areas of the county and almost 1,400 surveys responding to health and behavior attitudes were collected.

Initial findings produced favorable results.

"We have found that the community is supportive, there's a friendly community, there's a connectedness and it's a desirable location to live," she said. "Seventy-five percent of the survey participants reported to be in excellent health."

And while many respondents agree it is a "great place to raise a family and to grow old," Mrs. Craig said there were also concerns, among them chronic disease and cancer.

Social issues that need to be addressed include unemployment and job availability, as well as obesity.

Even in the younger demographic, ages 18 to 25, Mrs. Craig said, about 25 percent consider themselves overweight, while another 25 percent are obese.

"By the time you get to (ages) 45 to 54, normal weight, there are probably 25 percent, and the other 75 percent are either overweight or obese," she said. "We're not different, really, than the state of North Carolina."

There are still benefits to being in a small community, Mrs. Craig added, among them the efforts of agencies to partner toward the same goal and residents willing to make their voices heard.

Hopefully, the women say, the latter will occur at Monday night's public session.

"The Health Department and the hospital are preparing a three-year strategic plan based on the community input, so it's critical to hear from everyone," Ms. Larson said.